Sleepy Teenagers: Nature or Nurture?
Long lie in’s, frequent mood swings and a ‘can’t-be-bothered’ attitude: living with teenagers can be challenging. Yet it has been scientifically proven that teenager’s sleepiness is a real health factor and that today's teenagers sleep less than ever before! Sounds hard to believe?
Teenagers experience some of the biggest physical changes they’ll go through in their whole life, in a very short space of time. This alone can be exhausting as they grow and go through both significant physical and mental developments. As these happen, the body moves from the rhythm of going to sleep early and waking early to the opposite.
This shift in their body clock isn’t immediate and happens over time, and can disrupt the body’s pattern of sleep over months or even years. This is known as a ‘phase shift’, moving the teenager from a childhood physicality and mentality to that of an adult.
We have discussed in our other blogs that modern life has disrupted and changed our natural circadian rhythm by introducing artificial light, which prevents the body’s production of melatonin. This shifts the body’s clock to go to sleep later and therefore lie-in until later into the day. The change in circadian rhythm doesn’t fit with our society’s typical day: as we are essentially busy from 9-5.
Teenagers are prone to use mobile devices, computers and other such light-emitting products, which tricks the sleep cycle and disrupts it even further. If you thought your kids were frustrating when they woke you early as children, you’ll likely now be experiencing the exact opposite!
As if that wasn’t enough, there are some non-physical factors that should also be considered in making those teenagers feel tired. Indeed, the average teenager will need a full nine hours of undisturbed sleep to feel well rested! There are many emotional and mental changes that they go through (sometimes on an hourly basis!) as well as stresses requiring excess mental exertion. This is exhausting for anyone, let alone those going through a period of constant change.
Many teenagers may not be alert and awake enough to function and performance well until midday, or even later. Some schools and colleges in the US have changed their timetables to accommodate tired teens, but here we are little further behind. However, there are various adjustments you can make to the day’s activities to better facilitate life for a sleepy teenager.
Keeping a routine, as you would for a younger child, can be beneficial, albeit you’ll use different timings. A teenager should sleep slightly later than a child but should not lie-in for a long time and once up, should be exposed to natural light as quickly as possible.
Wake-up and day lights help to keep your sleep cycle on track and boost energy and productivity levels all day. You only need these up to 30 minutes a day!
Sleeping longer in the weekend’s, to ‘make up’ for a lack of sleep during the week, should be avoided and the use of mobile devices emitting disruptive artificial light should be postponed until your sleepy teenager is alert and properly awake!
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